Les Confidences du Salon

for piano and human speaker (or projector)

Anne LeBaron

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for piano and human speaker (or projector)

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Composer Anne LeBaron
Year of Composition 2018
Duration ca.9'

Categories (all composers) ,
Catalogue ID ce-alb1lcds1


Invited by Piano Spheres and Mark Robson to compose a work that responds to one of the Debussy Études, I selected Étude no. 10 – pour les Sonorités opposes. I was attracted to its contrasting sonorities. Étude no. 10 provided a formal template that I adapted, along with selected phrases, harmonies, and intervallic preferences that resurface and become re-contextualized in my composition.

The pianist’s vocalizations move into and out of the realm of speech. Blending the performer’s singing voice with the piano resonances creates a mysteriously enriched sonority, diffused in space. By embedding Debussy’s answers to a series of questions (see explanation below) into the fabric of the piece, the performer’s vocalizations become more directed and functional.

Parisian society hostesses, during the last two decades of the nineteenth century, often presented their guests with a questionnaire addressing personal, social, and artistic matters. In 1889, Claude Debussy, at the age of twenty-six, gamely provided answers when confronted with the queries. (Two years later, the twenty-year-old Marcel Proust answered similar questions.) Les Confidences du Salon—their answers and opinions—were published some years later, with Debussy’s appearing in the short-lived periodical Le Crapouillot. Nearly a century later, the magazine Vanity Fair resurrected this Victorian social diversion, eventually publishing over one hundred public figures’ answers to what has become known as the Proust Questionnaire. A few choice examples from the VF archive embrace literature, comedy, politics, and music:

Ai Weiwei: Which historical figure do you most identify with? “I would say Kafka.”

Amy Poehler: What is your most marked characteristic? “My laugh, once described as “the sound a raven makes when run over with a shopping cart.”

Donald Trump: Which living person do you most despise? “I despise many living people.”

David Bowie: What is your favorite journey? “The road of artistic excess.”